The Jaguares have put a little bit of breathing space between themselves and the South African teams in the SA Conference with a hard-fought 23-15 victory over the Waratahs in Sydney.
A try-scoring double from Pumas wing Ramiro Moyano did the damage as the Waratahs slumped to their eighth defeat of the season at Bankwest Stadium. It means the Waratahs’ Super Rugby finals hopes have all but evaporated.
It was the Jaguares’ second win in a row on tour and are in pole position in the SA Conference with just three rounds left in the regular season.
Semifinalists last year, the Waratahs now trail the Brumbies by eight points in the race for Australian conference honours with just three rounds remaining.
Even if they beat the Melbourne Rebels on Friday, then the Brumbies in the penultimate round, the Tahs would likely need an improbable slip-up from the Brumbies against the bottom-placed Sunwolves next week to have any faint hope of making the play-offs.
On their latest lacklustre display, the Waratahs would only be making up the numbers in the finals anyway.
While once again gritty, Daryl Gibson’s side lack the firepower and polish to seriously contend for silverware in 2019.
They weren’t helped at all by losing star centre Karmichael Hunt in the second minute to a knee injury.
The early prognosis was a suspected MCL injury, which could rule out the Wallabies World Cup hopeful for the remainder of the Waratahs’ campaign.
More immediately, Hunt’s departure further robbed the Tahs of another attacking strike weapon, something Gibson could ill-afford having already lost try-scoring whiz Israel Folau following the termination of his contract last week.
Starved of possession, the Waratahs’ only first-half points came from a 36th-minute penalty goal to Bernard Foley as the Jaguares took a 10-3 lead to the break courtesy of Moyano’s first try, which Domingo Miotti converted before adding a penalty.
The Waratahs looked shot ducks when Moyano crossed again eight minutes into the second half to extend the Jaguares’ lead to 17-3.
But with their season on the line, the desperate hosts mounted a fightback, pulling to within seven points after being awarded a penalty try in the 55th minute following a dominant maul from a 5m lineout win.
NSW fans thought their side had drawn level shortly after, only for Nick Phipps to be denied a try when the television match official spotted Curtis Rona placing his foot in touch before getting a pass away in the lead-up.
Rona, though, atoned when he dived over in the left corner with 15 minutes remaining.
Alas, Foley’s conversion attempt from the sideline ricocheted off the left upright, leaving the Waratahs still trailing by two points.
Two late penalty goals, including one after the full-time siren, denied the Waratahs a precious bonus point.
Man of the match: There were a couple of players in the Jaguares’ pack that stood out. However, the award goes to wing Ramiro Moyano for his fantastic finishing, which resulted in two tries.
Tries: Penalty try, Rona
Tries: Moyano 2
Cons: Miotti 2
Pens: Miotti, Diaz Bonilla 2
Yellow card: Pablo Matera (Jaguares, 55 – cynical play)
15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Karmichael
Hunt, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7
Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ned
Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Tuala, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Jed Holloway, 20 Will Miller, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 Curtis Rona.
Jaguares: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Santiago
Carreras, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain), 11
Ramiro Moyano, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega
Desio, 7 Tomás Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3
Santiago Medrano, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Lucio Sordoni, 19 Tomás Lavanini, 20 Juan Manual Leguizamon, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 23 Matias Moroni.
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)